Hoosier Legacy Player: Cornerback Tim Wilbur (1978-1982)

 Tim Wilbur comes up with the ball in a game at Memorial Stadium  Image: IU Archives

Tim Wilbur comes up with the ball in a game at Memorial Stadium Image: IU Archives

Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)

We continue our tour through Hoosier history at Hoosier Huddle by looking at the best defensive back to ever roam the secondary in Bloomington, Tim Wilbur who played for the Hoosiers from 1978 to 1982.

Before arriving at Indiana, Wilbur was a standout for Ben Davis in Indianapolis. During his high school career, Wilber was a three-sport standout playing football, basketball and baseball. He was the co-captain of a squad that went 11-1 as a senior in 1977, earned All-State Defense honors three times, All-State Offensive honors in 1977, finished as an all-county player in 1976 and 1977 while being the Marion County nominee for Athlete of the Year in 1977. Off the field Wilbur was named to the NATA Honor Society.

At IU Wilbur played cornerback and returned punts for Lee Corso’s Hoosiers and was part of one of the best teams in IU history (1979 Holiday Bowl Champions) and the Hoosiers complied a 22-23 record in his five seasons (he sat out the 1981 season when IU went 3-8). In that Holiday Bowl win over an undefeated BYU Cougar team that was ranked ninth in the country, Wilbur helped seal a one-point win when he returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown that capped one of the best wins in IU history and earned game MVP. At his Indiana Football Hall of Fame induction Wilbur reflected on that game saying, “it was fantastic. Winning the game was the climax, along with scoring that touchdown and winning MVP. Again, we had a great group of guys that worked hard, and it all culminated in that one moment.”

Wilbur was more than a one game wonder as he impacted games in many different ways over four seasons of play. He earned All-Big Ten honors in 1979 and 1980 and was named a second-team All-American in 1980 after a record setting 1979 season. He still holds the school record for single season interceptions when he had eight in 1979, is tied for the most interceptions in a single game when he picked off three passes in a 45-14 thrashing of Illinois in 1979, and most career interceptions with 19, which he returned for 360 yards including one for a 98-yard touchdown (second longest in IU history) in a 49-14 loss at Michigan State. Current Hoosier Jonathan Crawford is the closest to his record of 19 with seven career picks in two seasons.

Wilbur was a great corner, but he also had a major impact on games as a punt returner. He led the team in punt return yards in all four seasons he played and currently sits at number three on the school’s all-time punt return yardage list gaining 721 yards on 90 returns. He returned three punts for touchdowns as well, one of which went for 78 yards, good for the 10th longest punt return in IU history.

Wilbur is not enshrined in the IU Athletics Hall of Fame since he is not an IU graduate, but was inducted into the Indiana (State) Football Hall of Fame in July of 2006. At the ceremony Wilbur’s father Bob had this to say about his son, “He deserves it, Tim was a major part in bringing Ben Davis back into state recognition in football. I’m proud as a father and a coach. Tim had a great career at Ben Davis and at IU. It certainly won’t embarrass the Hall of Fame to have somebody of his stature in there.”